Head off on vacation with your pup in tow this summer! Virginia offers several pet friendly beaches perfect for your four-legged friend. When visiting beautiful pet-friendly locations, make sure to check with your local beaches before packing up the dog. Some beaches allow dogs during off-season, but summer is a different story. Read on to learn all you need to know for a waterfront trip to Virginia with your pup! 

Rules for Any Pet-Friendly Beach in Virginia

It’s important to find out whether or not your dog needs to be on a leash or if they can roam free. Bring a long leash no matter what, but know ahead of time if there will be an area where a leash isn’t necessary. If you’re pup is allowed to be off-leash, make sure they are under your voice control so they don’t stray too far. Keep in mind, some people on the beach will be less dog-friendly than others. Also, children can become easily frightened by dogs, so be mindful of who your dog is approaching. Never leave your dog unattended. Even the most well-trained dog can get distracted. Finally, pay special attention to your surroundings and any potential situations that may cause your dog to wander or run off.

Respect all of the rules set by the beach. Leave only footprints behind when you visit pet friendly beaches. Make sure to always be equipped with fresh water, doggy bags, and a leash when you venture out for a sandy day of fun. You don’t want to be the reason that dogs aren’t allowed at the beach anymore!

Virginia State Park Regulations

Pets are allowed in all Virginia State Parks. However, state regulations prohibit pets at designated swim areas and require pets to be confined or kept on a leash no longer than six feet and kept under supervision while at the park.

All beaches that are classified as “swimming beaches” do not allow dogs. If it is a lake or body of water that is completely contained within the park, then no swimming is allowed and can be enforced by the park staff.

Shorelines that are not swimming beaches allow swimming by dogs. This is often the case in riverfront parks, especially in the Tidewater region parks.

Lastly, in rivers and large lakes, dogs are be allowed in the water off the shoreline. Once back ashore, the dog must be on a leash under six feet and in the owner’s control.

First Landing State ParkVirginia Beach

First Landing State Park allows dogs on their beach as long as it’s not a “designated swimming beach” but a multi-use beach.

Virginia Beach Public Beaches

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, pets are allowed on the North End of the beach above 42nd Street and the South End in the Sandbridge area before 10am and after 6pm.

During the rest of the year, dogs are allowed full access to the beach as long as they are on a leash. Walk, jog, or run along the surf with your dog at this dog friendly beach!

Chris Greene Lake Park—Charlottesville

Chris Greene Lake Park provides a one acre fenced-in area for dogs to run off leash, with roped water access for dogs to swim. Wiggling pooches abound at this dog friendly beach!

Ocean View Beach Park—Norfolk

From Memorial Day through Labor Day between the hours of 10am and 6pm, your pup is not allowed on the beach. Other than that, they are welcome to come on the beach on a leash. Your four-legged friend will love this dog friendly beach!

Mountain Lake Lodge—Giles County

All dogs are welcome at Mountain Lake Lodge. Pups are welcome to take a dip in the water  and do not have to be on a leash to enjoy the lake. Additionally, the lodge runs specific event weekends for dog owners. Read more here.

New River Water Trail—Giles County

Your four-legged friend will love New River Water Trail. Here, your dogs can roam around leash-free and can go for a swim in the river. Feel like exploring the river? Public boat landings are always open and are also pet friendly, as well as the campgrounds in New River Trail State Park

Deltaville Maritime Museum—Deltaville

This Museum at Holly Point Nature Park is pet friendly. You and your dog are welcome to the Nature Park just as long as your furry friend is on a leash. Pup are welcome in the museum as well; make sure to stop by the front desk and ask about the treat drawer!

James River—Richmond

When visiting Richmond, bring your dog to Belle Isle, Pony Pasture, and Texas Beach! Your pooch will love a stroll through this beautiful riverside park, just as long as they remain on-leash.

York River State Park—Williamsburg

Bring your dog to York River State Park in Williamsburg for a day of play. Meander along the river-side dog trails, but keep your pet on a leash under six feet. Pets are not allowed to swim at this beach.

Cape Charles Beach—Cape Charles

From April 1st through Labor Day, dogs are allowed on the beach before 9am and after 9pm. However, bring your pup to Cape Charles Beach at any time from September to April.

Kiptopeke State Park—Cape Charles

Kiptopeke State Park has a pet friendly beach next to their designated swimming beach. This special pet-friendly beach is open for leashed dogs and the camping area, lodges and cabins allow dogs as well. The park also features a network of dog-friendly trails, however, your dog must be on a leash no longer than six feet.

Chesapeake Bay KOA Resort—Cape Charles

This resort features a beach dog park as well as a regular dog park with play structures and water features. The Sandy Paws Dog Beach is an off-leash beach area, just make sure to accompany your pup at all times!

Haven Beach—Mathews

Haven Beach on the Chesapeake Bay welcomes all pooches to it’s shore! The beach has a sandy bottom shoreline, designated swimming areas, and ample parking. Just make sure your pup remains on-leash!

Widewater State Park—Stafford

This state park allows your furry friends, just as long as they are on a leash under six feet long. Here Aquia Creek and the Potomac River meet and Widewater provides access to both bodies of water. The park lies on non-contiguous parcels and is open for public access. Keep in mind, there is no swimming allowed but enjoy the hiking trails along the river!

Aquia Landing Park—Stafford

You and your pup can enjoy this popular beach on the Potomac River and even take a dip in the river together! Just make sure your dog is well behaved.

Lake Mooney—Stafford

Take your four-legged friend to Lake Mooney in Stafford County. Here there is no swimming allowed, but the small shore is a perfect spot to spend a sunny day outdoors.

Colonial Beach

Your four-legged friends are allowed on the shores of Colonial Beach anytime from October 1st through March 31st. From April to September though, you cannot bring dogs to Colonial Beach. Additionally, they must be on a leash at all times.  

Leesylvania State ParkWoodbridge

Your furry friend is welcome at the sandy strip in Leesylvania State Park just as long as they’re on a least that is no longer than six feet and are with a human companion at all times.

Tall Pines Harbor CampgroundTemperanceville

Visit Tall Pines Harbor Campground with your pooch in tow! This campsite has a pet-friendly beach and even allows for pets to be off of their leashes on the beach as long as everyone behaves.

Bear Creek Lake State Park—Cumberland

While dogs are not allowed at Bear Creek Lake State Park “swimming beach”, the park does offer a separate beach area that is signed as pet friendly. Your dog must remain on a leash, but is welcome to enjoy the sandy spot just for them. Additionally, your pup can join you on the park’s boat rentals, as long as everyone behaves!

Dog-Friendly Private Beaches

If you rent a pet-friendly vacation home on a private beach on the Eastern Shore or along the Chesapeake Bay, you can relax with your dogs without worrying about public beach restrictions. Enjoy the sun, sand, and surf with your pooch this summer in Virginia!

View Comments

  • It's nice that people now are more open-minded to see dogs swimming. I just want to share some tips that I do when traveling with my poodle. First is it's really important that you and your dog are safe inside the car ging to your destination. I use a separator and got this https://www.jeepsareus.com/sku/82215378ab.html. Next is when you are let's say on the beach I would still put some life vest to my dog even though he's a great swimmer. We really need to care about our dog's safety when having some fun activities outside our house.

  • Some Virginia State Parks even have designated swimming areas for your dog, Like Bear Creek Lake State Park in central Va. just ask a ranger when you visit.

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Lucy Smith

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